- Paperback: 344 pages
- Publisher: Black Irish Entertainment LLC (April 28, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1936891352
- ISBN-13: 978-1936891351
- Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.8 x 11 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 154 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know
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About the Author
Shawn Coyne is a twenty-five year book-publishing veteran. He's edited, published or represented works from James Bamford, John Brenkus, James Lee Burke, Barbara Bush, Dick Butkus, Harlan Coben, Nellie Connally, Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Ben Crenshaw, Catherine Crier, Brett Favre, David Feherty, John Feinstein, Tyler Florence, Jim Gant, Col. David H. Hackworth, Jamie Harrison, Mo Hayder, William Hjortsberg, Stephen Graham Jones, Jon Krakauer, David Leadbetter, Alan Lomax, David Mamet, Troon McAllister, Robert McKee, Matthew Modine, Bill Murray, Joe Namath, John J. Nance, Jack Olsen, Scott Patterson, Steven Pressfield, Matthew Quirk, Anita Raghavan, Ian Rankin, Ruth Rendell, Jerry Rice, Giora Romm, Tim Rosaforte, William Safire, Dava Sobel, Michael Thomas, Nick Tosches, Ann Scott Tyson, Minette Walters, Betty White, Randy Wayne White, Steven White, and Don Winslow among many others.
During his years as an editor at the Big Five publishing houses, as an independent publisher, as a literary agent both at a major Hollywood talent agency and as head of Genre Management Inc., and as a bestselling co-writer (The Ones Who Hit The Hardest with Chad Millman)and ghostwriter, Coyne created a methodology called The Story Grid to each the editing craft.
With his friend, business partner and client Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art,Coyne also runs the independent publishing company Black Irish Books and writes for www.stevenpressfield.com and www.storygrid.com.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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So, why do you need this if you're a writer or trying to be one?
Shawn teaches a way of understanding good story form and function from an editors perspective, and he does it very well. By the time you've re-read something (and if you're smart, gone to his blog and read through the comments/questions and follow up) you'll have a deeper understanding of WHY good writing works. And by good writing, I'm talking about good story, commercial and popular fiction. Genre fiction. Stuff that sells.
I've been studying this story grid stuff for months now, and while I'm still a beginner, I can say, I've not only learned a lot, I've learned what it is I need to learn. What I didn't know I didn't know is now becoming apparent to me.
Okay, so let's say you haven't yet become a writer. Well, you might need this book first (or at least in conjunction with The Story Grid): Story Engineering as in this book, Brooks explains how to outline BEFORE you start writing.
Shawn's book here explains how to take that rough draft and figure out what's wrong and what's right. "Working/not working" is an important thing to know.
You need to be able to answer: "Do I have the proper conventions and devices in this story to fit into the genre I'm trying to write for?" And you need to be able to answer questions about scenes turning properly (having a purpose) and many other things (problems/mistakes) that aren't always apparent and that this "story grid" model is designed to help you find and fix.
This book helps a TON with figuring all that out.
While it's not exactly a "planning" book, I still suggest using it for that. Case in point: for me, I'd started a lot of stories before, without good planning and without understanding exactly what I needed to do. I did read the book I mentioned above (actually 3 times) but I was still stuck. I got into this material and in a three week period I cranked out a eighty thousand word rough draft. I felt like I'd climbed Mount Everest. To be fair, I give a lot of credit to other writers and books like this: The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles so I'm not saying Shawn Coyne is a magical fairy, BUT I am saying he explains things in such a way that you "get it", and I "got it". Getting it allows you to be creative. I can't emphasize that enough. This book is not about some formula that will make you a creative genius, this book is an explanation on how to take your genius and funnel and channel it properly into a book people will enjoy, read and buy and recommend to others.
Okay, so what next? I finished my rough draft and then went to work on it trying to figure out how to edit (and just for the record, this is NOT a primer on line editing). Editing is very very hard. I mean, it's the real deal. I could crank out a full length novel in rough draft every two weeks if I didn't have to worry about editing, oh and my day job.
Editing is tough, and mysterious and crazy and hard. Did I mention editing is hard?
If you want to write a book people want to read (and buy) then you have to edit well. And, again, I don't mean that you use proper English grammar and not overuse semicolons. I mean that you have to have a good story structure that follows the genre requirements and conventions (or breaks the rules that you understand and because you have mastered them, etc.).
I'm far from being good at this. I've tried to "story grid" my rough draft and it's hard. It's hard to know if you are seeing it "correctly" and it's not always objective either, it's a subjective art.
But I feel like I've received a college education from working through this material and I highly recommend it.
I think you'll feel the same.
Again, I did buy this, I do review a lot and get free stuff, but this is the real deal and I'm not writing this for any other reason than it's a great book and very, extremely in fact, helpful.
If you're a serious writer or want to be one, there is no excuse not to add this book to your library.
However, the "teaser" videos on the website and the description of this book focus on how every type of story has obligatory scenes that have to be included in order to satisfy reader expectations and create something cohesive. Once you determine the type of story you're telling, you can then move through these obligatory scenes and make sure they're all represented, satisfying, and hopefully innovative.
Based on that, I thought there would be at least a high-level walkthrough of what these obligatory scenes actually ARE. They're there for The Silence of the Lambs, which is the example Coyne uses to illustrate his own process. This is great and helpful, but it only covers that one type of plot. If you're writing a different genre and/or story type, there's no detailed information for you.
The only advice you get is that you need to know what the obligatory scenes are for your story (which consists of both an internal and external journey, several different types of interacting sub-plots, etc), and if you don't already know them, you have to learn them yourself by just reading a lot in your genre. I was a little disappointed by this. I HAVE read a lot in the genre I'm writing in. I think most people have! If this book isn't going to actually share what's obligatory in the major genres, and tell you to go figure them out yourself instead, I wished there were a little more concrete help for how to do that. Sure, you can find books in your genre and put them through the Story Grid, but what if I'm not writing something as easy to recognize as a Hard Boiled Murder Mystery? How the heck do I find other Action Adventure, Man-Against-Man, Machiavellian, Worldview Disillusionment Plot with elements of urban fantasy and sword-n-sorcery that share enough with my own story to be applicable? On a more basic level, should you do this with three books? Thirty? If they themselves break the conventions and skip important obligatory scenes, as Coyne admits bestsellers frequently do, how do you recognize that? You're looking to these as your examples OF those obligatory scenes themselves. How can you know if they're not there?
TL; DR: Book seemed sold as a guide for what the top-line obligatory scenes are in the major genres. In reality it is more a (still very useful) argument in favor of using obligatory scenes to structure your story, without much concrete information about what those scenes actually are.
UPDATE: Added a star. It may not spell out what you think it will going into it, but it really is an excellent comprehensive resource for understanding story structure.